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12 August 2019

Out of office and into the community: a blog post about King's new 'Service time' initiative

King’s Media Officer (Corporate Communications), Etan Kinsella McLennan writes about her day spent volunteering at the charity Orwell Youth Prize as part of ‘Service time’, a new initiative King’s has recently introduced in relation to the Service Strategy.

Orwell Youth Prize
Orwell Youth Prize

Out of the Office...and into the community!

I’ve always been on the lookout for opportunities that enable me to engage with London’s vibrant cultural sector and to connect with local communities, but the hustle and bustle of city life can leave little time for such activities. Hence, when I noticed that King’s have introduced ‘Service time’ in the university's Service Strategy, I was really pleased.

Service time supports staff in taking a day away from the office to engage in activities with the community and environment. Service should measurably and positively change an outcome in the present or the future, through a planned intervention.

Orwell Youth Prize

‘Passionate about organisations that empower and enable diverse communities to access and engage in arts and cultural activities, I became aware of The Orwell Youth Prize, an annual programme for 12-18 year olds culminating in a writing prize. Rooted in George Orwell’s values of integrity and fairness, the prize is designed to introduce young people to the power of language and provoke them to think critically about the world in which they are living.

I had previously made contact with the charity through an old classmate and colleague from King’s, Alex Talbott, who is now the Programme Manager at the charity. In my spare time I offered my support as a judge, longlisting written entries of various kinds which came from young people across the UK. When Alex told me the Celebration Day for the prize would be taking place during working hours and outside of London, I saw this as the ideal opportunity to take advantage of the Service time offered by King’s and continue to support the charity during its busiest time of year. 

Celebration Day 

I set off to beautiful Oxford, ready for a busy day of volunteering! The Orwell Youth Prize is an extremely ambitious charity made up of a one-woman team. Given that so many charities are under resourced and have small teams, they rely heavily on the support of volunteers, trustees and board members to be able to deliver their activities. 

The young people spent the day engaging in workshops and debates led by writers and journalists. Given my experience working in public speaking and communications, Alex tasked me with the job of reading out two of the winning entries at the award ceremony, as well as running the charity’s Instagram and Twitter accounts throughout the day. I was also on hand to support with preparing rooms for workshops and ushering the young people around the building throughout the day. 


The Value of our Time

Not only did I find my spending my Service time working with young people and with a small charity really rewarding, but it also enabled me to get some hands-on work experience, share my skills, make some valuable new contacts and keep my interests outside of work alive!

As King’s staff we are given a day to go out and support our communities, so why not take advantage of this great opportunity? I really recommend all King’s staff use their Service time and I know that the people you support will really appreciate you giving over your time and expertise.

For a small charity such as the Orwell Youth Prize, the ability to draw on the resources of an experienced professional, and one who is so committed to helping our cause, was invaluable! With Etan’s help, we managed to better communicate the impact of our day and raise the voices of those young people who attended far beyond the event itself. King’s staff have a wealth of experience and the Service time is an important and innovative way of sharing that. - Alex Talbott, Programme Manager at the Orwell Youth Prize.


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